March 10th, 2010 — Family Life, Feminine Heritage, Mentors, Role Models, Peers, Mother-Daughter Emotional Osmosis, Politics & Legislation
I just finished Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential candidate.
I’m going out on a limb and asking readers to put aside their political venom to discuss the merging and blending of mothering and working.
Take a deep breath. This isn’t a post about abortion. It’s not a post about Bristol or teen pregnancy. This post doesn’t discuss energy, ANWAR, death panels or the health care bill.
For the duration of this post, if it’s humanly possible, put aside your opinions and positions and accept my invitation to look at Sarah Palin in the context of her ability to govern and mother simultaneously.
Sarah Palin is a bad-ass mom.
A quick-run down of what I consider bad-ass mothering: campaigning for mayor and city council door-to-door pulling a wagon full of toddlers, toting her children all over Alaska to campaign for Governor, giving birth while Governor, breast-feeding a Down Syndrome infant while on the campaign trail running for Vice President of The United States of America.
She didn’t strike a “balance” between work and motherhood – she cohesively merged her work and motherhood seamlessly. Doing so was to the benefit of her personal fulfillment, her children and her work.
She felt a calling for more than motherhood, didn’t see a conflict and just DID it. She didn’t wait for the historically patriarchal Republican Party’s permission. She just did it.
How did she do it? She did what mothers have always done throughout the history of mankind – she did what she needed to do and took her kids with her or found someone to watch them.
The youngest daughter Piper, one of the primary characters in the book, appears at her mother’s side at nearly every pivotal moment in Sarah’s political career. Piper might actually be the most empowered girl in America, next to Willow and Bristol. Like other children throughout the history of moms and kids, she tagged along behind or beside her mom. The only difference is that instead of cleaning the house and doing dishes, Piper’s mom campaigned, governed a city, then a state, and then ran for vice president. She made speeches, mingled with voters, went door-to-door, and posed for photos ops. She signed laws, dealt with reporters and balanced budgets.
The most beautiful thing about this book and Sarah Palin’s perspective is that there is no conflict at all between mothering and governing or mothering and working. She doesn’t even waste a single thought on it.
She does not apologize for having children, for bringing children on a campaign, for a baby crying in the background of a phone call, for a child’s presence at a press conference or a State dinner, for her child answering a reporter’s question, for her children being present at the signing of bills, at the governor’s office or even playing hide and seek in the halls while she hammers out a budget through the night.
Sarah is there, therefore, her children are there. Duh, of course they are.
Think about that for one second. Replay, in your own brain, the number of times you apologize for your children’s presence. Too loud in church, disruptive in a meeting, no babysitter for a social function, working from home due to ear infections . . . and on and on. Think of all the guilt you’ve wasted over it.
She doesn’t talk about the stress of it either. Mothering is a pleasure. Governing is a privilege. She loves doing both. She has passion for both roles and finds them fulfilling. Why would she surrender one to an outdated traditional expectation?
She also does not apologize for leaving her children to pursue objectives child-free. She went to a hotel in California, leaving her family for a few weeks for some precious peace and quiet to work on her book. During the Vice Presidential race of 2008, she campaigned away from her children on weekdays so they could continue going to school in Alaska. Her husband, Todd, their parents, their extended family, close family friends, her children’s friends and parents and a hired babysitter all pitch in to make sure family life keeps trekking along while she’s away. Of course they do. It made me think, “wait, why are we making this so hard?”
She didn’t quit when her family life got complicated. It got pretty complicated when she had an unplanned pregnancy while Governor of Alaska, then found out the baby boy had Down Syndrome. It was further complicated when, a month after giving birth to Trig, her teenage daughter, Bristol, confessed she was pregnant. Her oldest son had joined the military and gone to Iraq and could die at any moment. Any normal family would have a very difficult time adjusting to those circumstances. Before any adjusting could happen, Sarah Palin was asked to run for Vice President and hit the campaign trail. And she did it. Come on, I know women who have an emotional breakdown and take a sick day when they get their period every month.
There is a vital difference between her life and most working women’s lives: Sarah Palin is the boss.
She has no boss telling her its inappropriate to bring her kids to work, inappropriate to campaign pulling a wagon full of toddlers behind her as she talks to voters door-to-door. She has no human resources department counting her sick days and no one telling her she can or can’t be home at 3:00 to greet her kids after school. There is no one telling her she can’t work from her kitchen table when she needs to. No one telling her it’s unprofessional to bring children to a budget meeting or a major speech.
Some of us bang our heads against the brick wall of the patriarchal work-day establishment asking for maternity leave, paid sick days, family medical leave – talking to employers and trying to convince human resource departments of our worthiness as mothers and workers, and arguing over legislation, trying to convince politicians to support family medical leave and a flexible workday – and raging against the fact that our available choices all suck (I mean Me here).
Sarah Palin went around the brick walls. She just believed such nonsense didn’t apply to her. So it didn’t. I’m fairly certain it won’t apply to her daughters either.
Photos from (but not in this order) Positives in Politics, ivstatic, Kansans for Life, NY Daily News, Telegraph.
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March 2nd, 2010 — Family Life, Feminine Heritage, Mentors, Role Models, Peers
There’s this one chapter in Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert about the modern-day difficulty of girls having so many choices.
In prior generations a woman might have regretted not having a career, but hey it was out of her control, so the regret was not so much about her personal choices as regretting a broad social condition, for instance.
I find myself having random fleeting thoughts like . . .
Why didn’t I join a sorority?
What was attractive about the “bad boys?”
Should I have taken the LSAT and applied to law school instead of jumping on my first writing job?
What if that one guy had been single?
What if I had stayed in California?
What if I had stayed in New York?
What if I had dumped the guy who wasn’t really into me, for the guy who was?
What if I had gone to Lithuania alone, instead of with my ex-husband?
What if I had gone to grad school in creative writing?
Why didn’t anyone ever encourage me to apply to an Ivy League school (aside from BYU)?
What if I had exercised in high school and college?
Why didn’t I ever like the nice boys who asked me to marry them?
Why did I waste like 15 years on a friendship that felt awful to me at least half the time?
What if I done what I was supposed to and married a nice Mormon boy?
As Elizabeth Gilbert points out, it’s not that I hate my current reality, I don’t. It’s just that, unlike my mother, who felt her only decision was to get married or not, choose a family or no family, I was born into a world with more choices. My daughter is born into a world with nearly unlimited choices.
Also, there is a large feminist time-lapse involved in my regrets. For instance, I grew up in a microcosm of ultra-socially-conservative-mothers-should-stay-at-home culture, religion and family. So, though my family encouraged college they discouraged ambition in girls. One went to college to find an educated man, and make sure you could provide for yourself and children if you had to. You should choose not to.
To plan on any career, or clandestinely nurse any professional worldly dreams, outside the nuclear family at all was extraordinarily ambitious. To move to Lithuania or California or New York at all was extremely adventurous and independent of me (defined as “dangerous” by my conservative family). To pursue writing as a J-O-B was a nice temporary choice, to be abandoned at the birth of a my first child.
It’s only in retrospect, when I am 36, and not 16 with all my choices ahead of me, that these same social conservatives have the likes of Stephanie Meyers and Sarah Palin, Ambitious Religious Conservative Mothers. There certainly was no such thing as a Feminist Mormon Housewife.
So, I’m not going to feel bad about my occasional musings on what might have been if the choices available to me had been different. Is “regret” really the best word for it? As my daughter’s choices expand into infinity, I get the odd pleasure on reflecting on a world of unlimited choice and daydreaming about how my life might have been different if I’d have gone right instead of left, or left instead of right, at the many forks in the road.
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November 4th, 2009 — Mentors, Role Models, Peers, Politics & Legislation
This post originally appeared on PunditMom, printed with permission.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t make the cut for finalists in the Washington Post’s “Next Great Pundit” contest. I’m not quite sure why the Washington Post is doing such a thing. Last time I checked with Katie Orenstein from The Op-Ed Project, major newspapers didn’t exactly have a shortage of good opinion material to choose from — most submissions never even see the light of day because they receive so many.
But I figured that this contest was just made for me, even though the pessimist/realist in me knew it would be difficult to snag such a gig so easily. Turns out about 5,000 other people had the same idea I did, and, unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the ten finalists.
But I thought I’d share my entry with you anyway. It seemed a shame to let a good blog post go to waste! And who knows — maybe there’s another good punditry opportunity around the corner!
I just bought my nine-year-old daughter a “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt. When I explained that being a feminist means that girls can do whatever boys can, she gave me her best pre-teen eye roll and said simply, “Duh!” I love that she believes she can do or be anything, but lately right-wing conservatives are getting in my way on that message.
Right now she feels empowered in the way only fourth-grade girls can. I don’t have the heart to tell her that if she chooses a political career, she should prepare herself for the mocking and ridicule that seems to be the status quo today.
When my daughter proudly proclaims that she’d make a good President (and I think she would!), how do I explain that some won’t want her in that position and might, as the Republicans have done with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, speak condescendingly of “putting her in her place” in an effort to take her down a peg and minimize her effectiveness as a leader?
Those who dislike powerful women have plenty of choice words. Hillary Clinton is a shrew, Madeleine Albright has a turkey neck, and Olympia Snowe is a Benedict Arnold and a Jezebel for voting her conscience on health care reform rather than blindly following the mandates of her party. Even “good” GOP women like Sarah Palin and Meghan McCain haven’t been safe from the personal attacks of those who are threatened by the possibility of women encroaching on men’s perceived political space.
Even more troubling is that this growing disrespect toward women is finding its way into policy-making.
Senator Jon Kyl is against maternity benefits in health care reform because he doesn’t need them (though I’d like to hear what his wife and daughter have to say on that). And Senator Orrin Hatch wants to limit reproductive choice even in private policies that aren’t impacted by federal dollars. Conservatives have apparently decided that the new tactic in their playbook is to advance their political agendas by engaging in conduct they would never tolerate if hurled at them. That frightens me for my daughter’s future.
The last time I checked, Republicans have daughters, too. In light of this growing path away from women, I’m not sure how they go home at night and face those girls who probably have the same dreams as mine.
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November 3rd, 2009 — Mentors, Role Models, Peers, Politics & Legislation
The Washington Post ran an America’s Next Best Pundit Contest. I entered. I received an email notifying me that I am not in the 10 finalists. That would have been fun.
According to The Op-Ed Project , which is tracking by-lines in major media, The Washington Post has only 14% female representation on its Op-Ed pages. (Which is comparatively good.) Don’t give me that stale line about no female submissions . . . myself and PunditMom submitted. Women always submit. Wa-Po, you better pick a girl this time!
Below is my submission to The Washington Post. Tomorrow, with Joanne Bamberger’s permission I’ll run PunditMom’s submission. The requirement was 400 words.
by Tracee Sioux
Sarah Palin’s entry on the national political scene gave me an odd sort of hope. The Good Ol’ Boys Club – voters against every attempt to help working mothers obtain equality or balance work and family – the very same GOP, shot a mother of five to the Vice Presidential Candidate spot in a desperate attempt to trump Barack Obama’s historic appeal.
Does a nursing mother with a special-needs infant, a pregnant teenage daughter and three other children trump Obama, the first African American candidate with a serious shot at The White House? No.
Still, it was the first time someone like me – a flawed, imperfect mother of young children – entered the national political scene.
I’ve always identified as a feminist, historically vote Democrat, and served as a Delegate for Hillary Clinton in 2008 Texas Primaries. In short, I like Sarah Palin, but I don’t like her politics. Still, I tore a portrait of her out of Time Magazine and thumb-tacked it to my wall, alongside a speech by Gloria Steinem, and a poster of Hillary. She’s more “like me” than Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Oprah Winfrey, or Diane Sawyer. She’s a mother.
Palin is symbolic of a new era of Motherhood Rising. Motherhood Rising is a change both inevitable and long overdue. Both political parties and the business sector are going to have to take notice of women who have the audacity to mother and lead.
In The Feminine Mistake, Leslie Bennetts points out that most women who “opted out” were actually “pushed out,” after they had children, by workplaces that both devalued them as workers when they became mothers and held them to a rigid patriarchal work structure not conducive to motherhood. A structure based around the assumption of a stay-at-home-mother to back up the employee. Given the choice between 50 hour workweeks and motherhood “opt-outers”, myself included, chose The ‘Hood.
I couldn’t help but notice the media too is lacking the voice of mothers. The ByLine Blog reports that women are only writing 12 percent Op-Ed pieces in the top six major publications, including The Washington Post.
Womenomics by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, however, point to a new era of Motherhood Rising:
• Pepperdine University conducted a study of profitability in companies: those that hired and promoted the most women beat industry averages by 46 percent in revenue and 41 percent in terms of assets.
• Women are the highest trained and most underused resource this country has, holding 58 percent of bachelor’s degrees.
• There’s a looming labor shortage as baby boomers retire.
Whether or not Sarah Palin is the future of politics, a new era is dawning. It’s an era where motherhood is considered an asset to leadership.
Mothers who “opted out” want back in.
We want back in under terms that don’t conflict with our motherhood.
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August 18th, 2009 — Mentors, Role Models, Peers, Politics & Legislation
I picked up a copy of Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi on a flight from Salt Lake City to Dallas.
This book gives insight into how a housewife with five children became the first female Speaker of the House in America.
It’s a fast easy read too. I always loved a good autobiography as a tween and teen. This book would be appropriate for a 5th grade reader and up. I tried to get Ainsley to give it a go, but Junie B. beckoned her instead.
What I liked best about Nancy’s retelling of her rise to power is that it wasn’t necessarily a rise to power. It was more like a gradual, softly stepping up where she was needed after her first priorities had been met.
She doesn’t talk about anxiously awaiting the time when her children were out of the house so she could finally make an impact on the world. Rather she acknowledges that making babies and growing children was the most fun, and most important thing, she felt she could be doing when she was a housewife.
She was an active Catholic and an active Democrat, participating in her local Democratic Party, which is where her rise to the most powerful woman on Capitol Hill began.
At the mundane Democratic meetings accepting positions like Library Board Member and behind the scenes Democratic Chair, first local and then national, positions.
Only when her oldest child was a senior in high school and told her mother to “get a life,” did she first run for a Senate seat. Twenty years later, with a hundred baby steps in between, she finally achieved Speaker of the House status.
I just like that story. I don’t know about you, but I often have to remind myself that I will have a long life after my children are grown up. There is no rush. Baby steps is how everything great is done. Enjoy this phase of my motherhood, because it is short and fleeting.
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